SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California voters overwhelmingly favor additional controls on guns and ammunition, with women far more eager to regulate firearms than men, according to a Field Poll released Tuesday.
The survey found that 61 percent of voters say it is more important to control guns and ammunition than to protect the rights of gun owners. It's the biggest margin of support on that question since the Field Poll began asking it in 1999.
In addition, more than eight in 10 voters favor spending more money to confiscate guns from convicted felons. Three-quarters favor permits and background checks for anyone buying ammunition.
Roughly 60 percent favor a tax on bullets to fund violence-prevention programs, outlawing ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, and banning rifles with detachable magazines.
Asked whether specially trained teachers should be allowed to carry concealed weapons in school, 68 percent said no. That idea was opposed by 74 percent of women and 60 percent of men.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, who has introduced such a bill in AB202, said his proposal is widely accepted, particularly among women, once he explains the concept.
"It would create a deterrent effect much like the air marshals' program, because you just don't know" who is armed, he said. "You could have somebody capable of responding within 30 seconds to a classroom."
The gender difference was evident throughout the survey.
"It's not that men are opposed to these. In many cases, they're on the fence. But these are being driven by women," Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said.
All the questions were based on bills awaiting consideration in the state Legislature. More than 30 bills have been introduced dealing with restrictions and related measures.
The poll found no difference between the genders when it came to taking guns from felons.
Women favored by wide margins taxing ammunition, outlawing large-capacity magazines and banning rifles with detachable magazines, while men were evenly divided on those questions. Background checks for buying bullets were favored by 82 percent of women and 68 percent of men.
DiCamillo has rarely seen such a gender divide on social issues and equated it to the split shown in polls on violence-rated topics such as going to war. Women, as traditional caregivers, may have an even stronger emotional reaction than men to the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, he said.
Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, are likely to see the greatest political benefit from the gun debate, DiCamillo said, because 57 percent of Democrats in California are women.
"They're just pretty much in sync with their base," he said of Democratic lawmakers, who introduced most of the gun-control measures.
The poll found that 80 percent of Democrats generally favored greater controls on firearms, compared with 31 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of those with no party preference. Statewide, 44 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 29 percent are Republicans and 21 percent are unaffiliated.
Male legislators still are taking the lead in proposing gun legislation, however. Of the bills introduced this legislative session, just seven were authored by women.
Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said gun-rights advocates have plenty of political support, with pro-gun candidates consistently winning elections in which gun control has been a major issue.
And since the Obama administration began examining enhanced gun laws, consumers have been buying firearms and ammunition at a record pace. That includes many first-time buyers, including women, he said.
"We have found that when you go into detail on what gun control means ... opinion switches 180 degrees," Paredes said.
The Field Poll of 834 registered voters was conducted by telephone Feb. 5-17. It has a sampling error margin of up to plus or minus 5 percentage points when a random subsample of 415 registered voters is used for some of the questions.
Nationally, public opinion polling has found growing support since 2000 for the right to own guns over increased limitations on ownership. But recent surveys also have found widespread support for reviving the federal assault weapons ban and for limiting high-capacity magazines.
An Associated Press-GfK poll in January found that 58 percent of Americans who responded believed the nation's gun laws should be tougher. Among Republicans, 53 percent opposed changing gun laws. Two of every three women favored stricter gun laws, as did 60 percent of independents.